Marmot Basin Ski Area Long Range Planning
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A new long range plan for the Marmot Basin Ski Area in Jasper National park is under development by Rocky Mountain Skiing Inc. There will be opportunities for public involvement in the long range planning process.
The new long range plan will be the first completed under the Marmot Basin Ski Area Site Guidelines for Development and Use (the Site Guidelines).
Marmot Basin’s Site Guidelines were approved by Parks Canada in 2008. They were prepared in collaboration with Marmot Basin, with a comprehensive public participation program and completion of a Strategic Environmental Assessment.
The Site Guidelines establish permanent, negotiated limits to development at Marmot Basin and clear policy boundaries for long range planning. They enable the ski area to:
- contribute to maintaining and restoring the ecological integrity of Jasper National Park
- contribute to memorable national park visitor experiences and educational opportunities, and
- have clear parameters for business planning in support of an economically-healthy operation.
What to expect this year
This spring (2013), Marmot Basin will make a public announcement introducing their long range planning priorities and process. The announcement will be followed by more detailed information about the proposals and opportunities for public participation. In the fall of 2013, the public will be invited to review and comment on their draft long range plan and Detailed Environmental Impact Analysis.
Marmot Basin’s first long range plan will establish their immediate priorities for facility and ski run enhancements within the existing developed area. 1
There will be no proposals in this plan for lift development outside the existing developed area of Marmot Basin. Two wildlife studies are in progress that will inform future long range plans for Marmot Basin (see “Looking longer term” below).
At the conclusion of this first long range planning process, Parks Canada will carefully consider all public feedback. The Superintendent of Jasper National Park will make a determination regarding the Detailed Environmental Impact Analysis, and will submit the long range plan to the Minister of Environment and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency, for decision.
In conjunction with their long range planning process, Marmot Basin is taking steps to implement a voluntary leasehold reduction. As detailed in the Site Guidelines, a substantial environmental gain will be realized by removing 117 ha of valuable wildlife habitat in the Whistlers Creek Valley from Marmot Basin’s lease and returning it to Parks Canada to be managed as designated wilderness.
In exchange for these substantial environmental gains, Marmot Basin may submit specific proposals in a long range plan that can only be considered under the circumstances for “exceptions” in the Site Guidelines, such as a mid-mountain reservoir for snow making.
The leasehold reduction requires a boundary change that involves completion of a legal Canada Land Survey, amending Schedule 5 of the Canada National Parks Act, amending the National Parks of Canada Wilderness Area Declaration Regulations, and negotiation of lease amendment agreement.
Looking longer term: a second long range plan
Consistent with their Site Guidelines, Marmot Basin may prepare successive long range plans. A second long range plan submission by Marmot Basin is expected in 2015 or 2016, in recognition that further research is needed to support decisions concerning some of the potential initiatives identified for consideration in the Site Guidelines. Two important independent wildlife studies are currently underway to address knowledge deficiencies that were identified in the Site Guidelines and the Strategic Environmental Assessment:
- A mountain goat study by University of Laval of researchers will complete a third field season of data collection this summer and a final report is expected at the end of March 2014. The mountain goat study examines habitat use and movements to understand how potential ski lift proposals (eg. extension of the Knob Chairlift) and off-piste skiing outside Marmot Basin’s existing developed area may affect the regional mountain goat population.
- A caribou risk assessment for the Whistler Creek Valley is being prepared by the University of Alberta. The caribou risk assessment will inform decisions by Parks Canada in the fall/winter of 2013 concerning whether or not any lift development will be considered in a future long range plan to service Outer Limits and Tres Hombres on the upper slopes of the Whistler Creek drainage within Marmot Basin’s leasehold, and for managing backcountry skiing opportunities in the valley in relation to caribou conservation.
The results of these research initiatives will be shared with the public. Parks Canada and Marmot Basin will await the results of the wildlife studies before determining the scope of projects that would be proposed in Marmot Basin’s second long-range plan.
In the interim, and on an ongoing basis, Parks Canada will work with Marmot Basin to implement their Site Guidelines and Long Range Plans to deliver on shared responsibilities for protecting ecological integrity, and connecting visitors with memorable experiences and learning opportunities.
For more information, contact: Shawn Cardiff, 780-852-6108; firstname.lastname@example.org
1 The existing developed area is the area modified for skiing or other uses within the leasehold through construction of physical works, or through clearing/removal of trees and other vegetation, landscaping, terrain modification or other activity associated with ski area operation.
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